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AFC Telford United 2 Altrincham 2 - Report and pictures

Bucks manager Gavin Cowan could be forgiven if he believed that Groundhog Day had arrived a day early. In the movie of that title, Bill Murray finds himself having to relive the same day over and over, February 2nd, to be precise, and for a second successive week, Cowan watched on as his side fell victim to a late goal scored from distance by the opposition’s centre-half to deny them all three points.

The feelings of déjà vu didn’t end there, either; the Bucks twice held the lead in this game, and on each occasion winger Brendon Daniels, in excellent form of late, scored from unlikely positions, bamboozling Altrincham keeper Tony Thompson.

Daniels spent time on loan to the Robins last season from Port Vale, but his spell at Moss Lane wasn’t a notable one. He returned to haunt the Cheshire side, taking his goal tally for the season to seven goals, and got the Bucks off to a flying start against the in-form visitors.

Only five minutes had passed when visiting skipper Jake Moult fouled Ryan Barnett on the right edge of the penalty area. Daniels switched flanks to take the kick, left-footed, but could only strike his initial effort into the defensive wall. The ironic cheers from the Robins fans had barely left their lips when Daniels repositioned himself and lofted the rebound high and over goalkeeper Tony Thompson, who backpedalled furiously but could only watch the ball loop over him and nestle into the far corner.

A goal to the good, the Bucks had a platform, but seemed content to let the Robins have possession, sitting deep and making themselves had to break down. Their first real chance arrived after 10 minutes, when Zak Lilly’s foul on the dangerous Jordan Hulme created a free-kick opportunity; former Buck Josh Hancock’s effort from 20 yards beat the defensive wall but thudded back off the right post of debutant keeper Michael Luyambula, who was well beaten.

The visitors Craig Mahon was chief orchestrator, pulling the strings on their left, as they enjoyed possession and territory, and they forced a number of corners before suffering a blow, when striker and former Buck Tom Peers was forced off the field through injury.

It wasn’t all Altrincham, however; Ellis Deeney almost connected with a header from a Bucks corner and Matty Stenson continued his impersonation of a human JCB, always willing to harry and chase. Hancock saw a shot touched wide for a corner and then, with Robins fans claiming a foul by Adam Walker in the build-up, Ryan Barnett brought a fine save from Thompson, plunging right to palm away a shot that Stenson couldn’t capitalise on.

Further efforts on goal from Connor Hampson, Mahon and defender James Jones were either too high, lacked power or were snatched at, meaning the Bucks held their lead to half-time.

The Robins kept bobbing along and Josh Lundstram directed a header wide in the 47th minute, the first effort of the half. With both sides searching for the game’s second goal, it was the Bucks who almost got it; Barnett, enjoying a quieter game than Tuesday’s man of the match display against Blyth, burst past his marker on the right and his low cross from the goal-line was cut out by Jones for a corner, Aaron Williams waiting to pull the trigger.

With the game starting to stretch, Altrincham levelled on 68 minutes, and it was a fine finish from substitute Lewis Walters, who raced in behind a static defence onto Craig Mahon’s diagonal through ball, touching home past an advancing Luyambula.

The Bucks were stung, but Cowan will be pleased with their response. Daniels beat his man on the left minutes later, and when his cross dropped beyond the majority of players in the box, Barnett made a sweet connection that brought another great save from Thompson.

With 15 minutes remaining, the Bucks retook the lead, and in some respects, it was a carbon copy of their first. Mahon body-checked Daniels and from the resulting free-kick, wide on the left, Daniels struck a ball goalwards that soared and then dipped in beyond Thompson, the keeper again going backwards as the ball sailed over him and in.

Cowan withdrew Stenson for James McQuilkin as he tried to shore up in midfield, but Alty weren’t behind for long. When Aaron Williams lost possession of a ball cleared up to him on 84 minutes, lanky defender Jones strode through to beat Luyambula, perhaps invited to shoot by the goalkeeper being well off his line and making him pay, his 25 yards effort dipping over the Birmingham City loanee.

Level for a second time, the Robins launched a late flurry to try and claim all three points. They thought they’d done so when Jordan Hulme’s downward header from a far post cross was bundled goalwards by Hancock. The assistant’s flag stayed by his side, and the Robins were denied, an entertaining game finishing with honours even.

The point gained by Gavin Cowan’s side leaves them with much work to do still if they are to be involved in the end of season play-off scramble, and as if those two instances of déjà vu weren’t enough, there’ll be a third on Tuesday, when the two sides meet again in a league game twice rearranged from October.

AFC Telford United: Luyambula, Birch, White, Deeney, Sutton (c), Lilly, Barnett, Walker, Stenson (McQuilkin 79), Williams, Daniels.

Unused substitutes: Streete, Royle, Knights, Dinanga.

Scorer: Daniels (5,75).

Cautions: Walker, Daniels.

Altrincham: Thompson, Densmore, Hampson, Jones, Hannigan, Moult (c), Mahon (Richman 79), Lundstram (Harrop 64), Hulme, Hancock, Peers (Walters 20).

Unused substitutes: Wall, Mullarkey.

Scorer: Walters (68), Jones (84).

Cautions: Densmore, Hannigan.

Referee: Matt Corlett.

Assistants: Adam Davies, Ravel Cheosiaua.

Attendance: 1159 (151 from Altrincham).

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